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Aero vs. Auto: and the winner is...
When the British television series Top Gear decided to create the definitive airplane vs. automobile race, host Richard Hammond got behind the wheel of what is arguably the world's fastest street car-the 1,001-horsepower Bugatti Veyron. His opponent was the Eurofighter Typhoon, a winged beast urged on by twin jet engines producing 40,500 pounds of thrust and capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.0-a little more than 1,500 mph. "A handy bit of kit," was the way Hammond described the Typhoon, flown by squadron leader Jim Wolf.
The race took place in the UK at RAF Coningsby on a runway shut down just for the event.
The rules called for a standing start. The Veyron would accelerate over a distance of one mile, then turn and race back to finish at the starting line. The Typhoon would accelerate, take off, climb vertically one mile, dive back, level off at the point where the Veyron made its turn, then race for the finish. As Hammond put it in a moment of machismo before the race, "Last one to finish is a vegetarian."
The Veyron roared off to a quick early lead and reached a speed of nearly 190 miles per hour before breaking for the U-turn and the race back to the finish. By the time it made its turn, the Typhoon was well off the ground and climbing vertically on afterburners. With his foot down and the Veyron hitting 196 miles per hour on the way back, Hammond glanced outside split seconds before the finish line to see the Typhoon flash past in a blur to win the race. The car that had been described as the world's best shot at besting an airplane had lost, and Hammond was looking at a vegetable diet.
While the Typhoon isn't available to the average lad with a need for speed, the Veyron is-for a mere $1.7 million. Bugatti spent four years developing the 16-cylinder machine in Molsheim, France, and claims it will go from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds and can reach 253 miles per hour. At its top speed, it gulps about 1.33 gallons of gas per minute.
To view the race, go to
www.metacafe.com and search for "TopGear's Greatest Race."